Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Experiment in Dating: Day One

After crying all day Saturday over Marcus and what would have been – SHOULD have been – his 45th birthday this past weekend, I decided it’s time. It’s time to stop wallowing in the past and bravely, boldly embrace the future. What I’m trying to say is two years after Marcus’ passing, it’s time to start dating again. Gulp.

Every day I peer out my windows and watch all those couples posing for photos in front of the American Gothic House. Even though I am proud of myself for my independence and ability to, um, “wear the overalls” so to speak, I wouldn’t mind having someone to stand by my side.

I miss Marcus. But Marcus isn’t coming back. So forward I go.

First, I timidly posted a little blurb on Facebook telling my friends – all 300 of them – that even though I was scared about it, I was open to dating again. I strategically posted this little tidbit at a time when not many people would see it -- on the Fourth of July when everyone but me was out watching fireworks. I was surprised that (a) I had such a huge outpouring of support for this idea -- “Yes! You are going to join the living again. You’re going to do great!” they commented, with about a hundred “Likes” -- and (b) I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t out watching fireworks.

Spurred on by this support I took the next step. It’s the thing I preach to anyone who is looking to meet someone and complaining about not being able to. “Have you tried EVERYTHING?” I ask. “Have you signed up for Match.com?” Who am I to be a hypocrite? I got out my debit card and coughed up the sixty bucks for the three-month subscription. All the while feeling a growing wave of nausea in my stomach. This is what my life has come to?
My profile picture. Would you go out with
a girl wearing a chicken apron?

It’s been 24 hours now and here are the stats so far: 263 people have viewed my profile, 5 have labeled me as a “favorite,” I’ve had 18 “winks,” (I winked one, because he does triathlons, he’s been to Africa, and I liked his shoes – but I could see he viewed my profile and never responded. Hmph!). I’ve received 26 emails, and I’ve replied to exactly one person who I may or may not meet for coffee on Thursday. I haven’t even had one date and I’m fucking exhausted! One guy (a musician who seemed very nice but lives a geographically undesirable two hours away) told me he was taking his profile down after having been subscribed to Match for only two days. I completely understand that now. I’m ready to take mine down after just one.

My friend Kelly weighed in when I told her I was going to shake things up in my social life. As a former Match.com user, she cautioned me, “It was too much work to weed through the profiles and emails, decide to meet, and then realize the man was not someone I connected with (or vice versa). I found myself spending way too much time and energy on the sifting process because you don't want to seem judgmental or particular, etc., but hell, that's exactly what you are doing because you talking about entering into a personal, romantic and possibly intimate relationship with this person.”

She gave up after she met, married, and divorced her second husband – whom she met on Match. But when things got dull she went back on the site, “just to check out the competition.” In other words, she did a reverse search, looked at profiles of women in her age category, and actually emailed and then went out for drinks with someone who is now her best friend. (And, no, they are not lesbian lovers.) They discovered they had dated some of the same men (such is the size of the dating pool in Iowa) and had some good laughs about that over cosmopolitans.

But I’ve also heard – and witnessed -- the success stories. My friend Bennett signed up for Match and met the man of her dreams in Portland –a successful entrepreneur, he speaks five languages, runs marathons, knows good wine, and has impeccable manners (even my mother approves of him) -- and now they live in the house of MY dreams in the Columbia River Gorge. There are countless other stories of people who have found a mate.

Right now, however, I’m willing to start small. Take baby steps. I’m not looking for a mate. I just want to pretend I have some semblance of normalcy to my life. I just want to go out for dinner. At a restaurant. Would that really be asking too much?

If Match doesn’t pan out -- and believe me, my expectations are about as high as Homer Simpson’s IQ -- I suppose I can always sit on the park bench in front of my house and just see who shows up. Once in a while I see a man traveling solo. If one happens by and looks promising, I can loan him my pitchfork, maybe offer him a piece of pie. If he wants someone to pose with, I can offer to play the part. Which makes me wonder, maybe I should stop wearing my overalls and start wearing a dress.

Regardless, I’ve already taken the first step. I’ve decided. Bravely, boldly or terror and angst-filled, either way, I am facing the future. And making room for someone new.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Guest Blogger: Jack Iken

Hi. My name is Jack Iken. I'm seven years old. I'm half Jack Russell terrier, half Yorkshire terrier. I like playing stick, I like belly rubs, and I really like grilled meat, especially filet mignon.

I'm blogging for my mom today because she doesn't feel good. She was going to take the weekend off and go on a mini-vacation. She said something about wanting to take a break from the "fishbowl," but I’m not sure what that means because we don't have any fish. She even closed the pie stand for the whole weekend, which was a big deal because people like to come here and buy her pies. (I like it when people come to buy pie because sometimes they’ll throw the stick for me and rub my belly.) But on Saturday, my mom woke up with a sore throat and a cough so we had to stay home. I was disappointed because when we go on trips she always takes us someplace fun. Lately we've been finding lakes where we can hike and swim. (I like swimming, especially if it involves going after a stick.) However, I didn't mind staying home because she put a mattress on the office floor where it's cooler, turned on the air conditioning, and we got to nap all day. And Daisy (my sister) and I really like napping. But we like napping even more when our mom is in bed with us.

Mostly she slept, but she cried a lot too and said to me a few times, “I miss your dad.” She was sad because his birthday was yesterday, July 2nd. He would have been 45 in people years. That’s 315 in dog years. I wonder how much it is in spirit years. That’s what my mom says he is now: a spirit. I think that means like a ghost, but a good ghost. (I’m not scared of ghosts, but I am scared of fireworks. So I’m glad we stayed home where it’s safe from all those explosions outside.)

I don’t tell my mom, because I don’t want to make her feel even sadder, but I miss my dad too. He was a really good dad and a really good stick thrower. One of the things I miss the most is when he came home from work every night and took off his shoes, he let me pull off his socks, like tug o’ war, and when I would get one off I would run all over the house with it and he would chase me. Then I would get tired of running and pull off the other one and he would chase me again. I really miss that. He was the best dad. He bought me cool stuff, like the Chuck It ball thrower and a 'Life is Good' collar. And when we lived in Portland, where it rains all the time, he bought me a really nice fleece-lined raincoat. My dad – his name was Marcus Iken, that’s where I got my last name – he also liked to grill and he always saved me a piece of steak. That’s how I learned that I like filet mignon so much.

My mom just bought a new grill so hopefully she will cook some steaks when she feels better. That is, if she doesn’t stay mad at me, maybe I’ll get some steak treats. I got in trouble from her yesterday – I was in so much trouble I got yelled at really loud and even made my mom cry -- because I went into the neighbor’s yard and I’m not supposed to go over there. What made it bad is that I didn’t come back when I was called, and I was gone a lot longer than usual. She says she called me like 20 times, but I didn’t hear her, I swear. Those neighbors took pictures of me last time I was in their yard. They were Polaroid pictures and in them I was circled and labeled “the black dog.” (Daisy was in some pictures too, they called her “the white dog.”) These neighbors are so against having dogs on their grass they showed our pictures at the city council meeting. I think they wanted me to go to jail or something.

The city council people didn’t do anything about it, and I made friends with the sheriff a long time ago, so now the neighbors are trying to find another way to keep me out of their yard. My mom is afraid they might try to shoot me or poison me or trap me in a cage and she is really scared I could get killed over there. That seems silly. There are bunnies to chase! And squirrels! The way I see it, Daisy and I are doing the neighbors a favor by chasing other animals out of their yard and keeping the vegetables in their garden safe.

But me getting in trouble added another reason my mom was upset yesterday, on my dad’s birthday, and when she was sick. I was very sorry and tried to lick her face to tell her I promise to try harder next time to listen and come when I’m called.

I hope she gets better soon because this writing a blog thing is hard work and it takes time. I’m ready for another nap. If you ever come to the American Gothic House and you see me in the front yard, my name is Jack Iken. I’m the black dog. Daisy is the white one. I like playing stick. I like having my belly rubbed.